Friday, November 2, 2012
Week Nine: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Giants Preview
Apologies for the lack of writing about the game last week. I got a new job and found out my wife is pregnant with our second child so it's been an eventful week. But I'm back so let's go. Leave it to Mother Nature to take a game with an infinite amount of story lines and make another one. Looking at the game alone, it was already arguably the marquee match-up of the week. It pits the Super Bowl champions who have been excellent to this point against a Steelers team who has seemed to find their way over the past couple of weeks. It's also a match-up between two first round draft picks of one of the best quarterback classes of recent history, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning. Both of which have two Super Bowl rings to their credit. Then throw in Hurricane Sandy, the natural disaster that has essentially shut down a large portion of New York and New Jersey. The hotel that the Steelers had booked for the game still has no power. For that reason, the Steelers have been granted permission by the league to fly out the morning of the game. Something that NFL players are hardly accustomed to.
Steelers Offense vs. Giants Defense: The Giants are essentially the epitome of a bend but don't break defense. Just by looking at the scores of their games, one would assume that their defense has been fantastic. That hasn't necessarily been the case. They have been a good scoring defense which is ultimately all that matters but teams have been able to move the ball on them. They are in the middle of the pack in rushing and passing defense. They're even a bit below average in passing defense. The success of their pass defense is largely predicated on putting pressure on the quarterback with their myriad of defense linemen. That could cause a problem for the Giants because the Steelers have done a much better job protecting Roethlisberger than in years past under Todd Haley's offense.
Another reason that the Steelers should be able to have success through the air is because of the Giants' depleted linebacker corps. They have three injured linebackers, two of which have already been ruled out for Sunday's game. That should make Heath Miller, who has been a bigger part of the offense than in past years, a big target. Forcing safeties to help out in the middle of the field could open things up for the burners on the outside.
Lastly, don't forget that the Steelers finally have a running back who has rushed for back to back 100 yard games. That's something that hasn't happened for four years. Given, Jonathan Dwyer did have that success against two inferior defenses but the Giants aren't a great run stopping team either. While running the ball shouldn't be the primary focus with the Giants problems in pass coverage, the passing game could very well open things up for Dwyer to make another big impact. Of course that is all dependent on how Dwyer bounces back from his quad injury that he sustained on his final carry of last week's contest.
Steelers Defense vs. Giants Offense: Much like the case was last year, people are starting to forget about the "old and slow" talk in reference to the Steelers defense that we heard so much of after the first handful of games. However, much like the running game, the success has been more because of the opponent than anything else. Don't forget, the Redskins has ten dropped passes on Sunday. Things could have been at least somewhat different if even half of those passes are caught.
Regardless of whether the recent success of the defense is legitimate or not, this isn't going to be an easy game. The Giants offense is similar to the Steelers in at least one way and it comes to the running game. They aren't extremely successful on the ground but they rarely give up on it. They at least keep teams honest by not becoming one dimensional though with the group of receivers that they have, becoming one dimensional probably wouldn't hinder their success that much.
Ike Taylor is probably going to be the most important player on the field on Sunday. That's assuming that he will be the one that is matched up with Victor Cruz. After his horrid start to the season, Taylor rebounded nicely with a terrific game against A.J. Green of the Bengals and then another good game last week. Keenan Lewis has also stepped it up in recent weeks. But the combination of Cruz and Hakeem Nicks is an entirely different animal. Stopping them is just not going to happen. Playing well enough that they don't beat you is what is necessary. The Giants have been successful this year with a bend but don't break defense. The Steelers are going to have to be the same way on Sunday. Giving up field goals is not going to be a bad thing.
Prediction: If all things were equal, I think this would be a fantastic match-up and quite possibly the best game that we would watch as Steeler fans this year. I include the games against the Ravens in that. I sincerely think that the potential was there for an excellent game. However, thanks to the weather I think a lot of that changes. The transportation issues don't seem like a big deal to the average fan but professional athletes are creatures of habit. Flying out the morning of a game is something that these guys are not used to. It is going to effect preparation and preparation is key in games of this magnitude. I'm struggling to see a way that the Steelers pull out a win this week. Giants 34, Steelers 24